Corey Rodrigues performs comedy all over the world, but after growing up in Milton and living many years in Ashfield, he appreciates the hometown support from fans at The Cabot in Beverly.
Rodrigues is looking forward to the same electric atmosphere at Off Cabot Comedy Club & Events, a joint venture by The Cabot in partnership with John Tobin Presents, where he will be part of the opening night lineup on Saturday, March 19. Both performances that evening, at 7 and 9 p.m. at 9 Wallis St. in Beverly, will also feature Boston comedians Tony V and Laura Severse.
“We’re at a time when things are on edge, and nothing feels better than forgetting about everything for a little while,” Rodrigues said in a phone interview from Curacao, where he was in port while performing on the Holland America Eurodam.
“I’m more than excited to see a new comedy space in that area,” added Rodrigues, who is already scheduled to return to Off Cabot for 7 p.m. shows on Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
J. Casey Soward, executive director of The Cabot, said he got the idea for a dedicated comedy venue while walking home following a comedy show at the theater last fall.
“That night, I laughed for two straight hours with 800 other people and thought, ‘We’ve got to do this more often. It’s like a community service during these difficult times,’” Soward recalled. “I happen to live nearby, and I passed a space for lease just down the street. The next day I called John [Tobin] and asked what he thought about the idea. He didn’t bat an eyelash.”
The Cabot, a neoclassical-style theater, showcased vaudeville shows and silent movies after it opened on Dec. 8, 1920. Today the 850-seat venue offers live performances, film screenings, community events, and a new video on-demand platform called Cabot To-Go.
Off Cabot, which is approximately a half mile away, seats 150. The site was previously a rock and blues club named 9 Wallis, which was forced to close due to the pandemic in June 2020.
According to Soward, new sound and lighting systems are currently being installed and the comfortable, intimate interior is being refreshed. The club will host comedians and live podcasts on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as some shows on Thursday evenings.
Tobin said Off Cabot is a natural extension of his collaboration with The Cabot, with whom his company has produced in-person and virtual shows for the past five years that “bring joy” to audiences.
“Everybody has problems, whether they’re health concerns or job concerns or other concerns, and those have only been amplified over the past two years,” said Tobin, who served on the Boston City Council from 2001 to 2010 before being appointed as vice president of city and community engagement at Northeastern University. He has simultaneously served as owner of John Tobin Presents since 2003, producing nationwide comedy events including locally at Nick’s Comedy Stop, Laugh Boston, the Shubert Theatre, and The Comedy Scene.
“The one thing all comedy clubs share is the good contagion: laughter,” Tobin added. “It really is good for your health.”
“Laughter also keeps you young,” added Plymouth comic Christine Hurley, who will perform 7 p.m. shows on Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16. She called the opening of Off Cabot a “huge deal.”
“It’s a no-brainer. We all love what we do so much, and to have a beautiful place to do it is the cherry on top,” said Hurley, whose first time sharing her relatable tales as a beleaguered wife and mom of five on stage earned a finalist nod for “Nick at Nite’s Search for the Funniest Mom in America” in 2005.
Newton native Erica Rhodes may now reside just outside Malibu, but she remains a “Boston girl at heart” who appreciates the support of John Tobin Presents throughout her own comedy career. In fact, the last show attended by her late father, Dean Rhodes, was one which she headlined at Laugh Boston in 2019.
Her mother, violinist Kristina Nilsson, has brought so many colleagues from the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet orchestras to past shows that Rhodes said, “A couple times, I felt like I was just performing for musicians.”
“Everybody needs comedy, but probably now more than ever because there is a lot of uncertainty,” added Rhodes, who will take the stage at Off Cabot on Friday, April 1, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, April 2, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. “I can hear a difference when people laugh because they came out to have a good time versus we needed this. And right now, I’m hearing the ‘I haven’t been out in two years and it feels so good’ laughter.”
Though Off Cabot was born from a desire to spread happiness, Soward anticipates ancillary economic benefits to downtown Beverly such as an upturn in business for pandemic-weary shops and restaurants benefiting from increased foot traffic. Ultimately, he said he hopes to leverage the city’s friendly vibe and community spirit to enhance its reputation as a “cool cultural destination.”
“We have this vision,” he said, “where someone asks, ‘Where are we going tonight?’ and the answer is, ‘Beverly. Because something great is always going on there.’”
For show tickets and more information, visit offcabot.org.
Cindy Cantrell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.